By John S. McClenahen Following a 1.8% rise in December 2003, new orders for manufactured goods fell 0.5% in January 2004, the U.S. Commerce Department reported March 4. The decline was expected, in part because preliminary figures for manufactured durables -- products designed to last three years or more -- showed a 1.8% drop from December. In fact, the latest Commerce numbers show new orders for manufactured durables fell 2.3% (to $180.2 billion) in January, a larger decline that was only partially offset by a 1.6% increase in new orders for manufactured nondurable goods. Shipments of manufactured goods in January increased 0.5% in January, their fifth consecutive increase. Inventories were up 0.2%.